“Decolonial Imaginary”, what is that?

As a Politics student, I’m sad to say that the majority of my education has been historically biased, favouring, almost always, the very same group that, in many instances, perpetrated violence against various peoples. It becomes even more conflicting when I uphold my theoretical foundations, and measure them against my identifiers: African, Mozambican, Black, Woman.

For a long time, this dissonance happened in the background of my existence. When confronted with various degrees of discrimination, I’d push away this feeling, this constant otherness that seemed to find me wherever I went.

Things changed, or rather, I became increasingly self-aware of my surroundings, when I traveled to the United States for a short fellowship. It was the year Trump won, and racial tensions seemed so much more present than ever before. I was walking in a kind of limbo, a dense concoction of an inherited physical trauma of both Fanon in Paris and Du Bois in America.

For the first time, I understood the difference between being a tourist and a migrant; an African tourist and an African immigrant; a black African, and a black American.

A couple of years later, I was invited to participate and speak at a Playwrights conference in Abu Dhabi. The mic was in my hand when I had an important epiphany: I, a person born in Africa, stood on the centre stage of the Gulf region sharing my work, my body of knowledge. It dawned on me that the process of movement, of migrating, is a radical, revolutionary act of human self-actualization. Whereas the route from Arabia to Africa had been limited to the trade of goods, beliefs and slaves, there I was challenging this historical occurrence. I had just undone one tiny, yet significant migratory route.

The decolonial imaginary, therefore, is a space that exists not only in the realm of imagination, but also in our material world. Each day, millions of people are, with their own two feet, inverting and overriding historically traumatic migratory routes. Third Native aims to showcase, celebrate, and provide even more grounds for us to re-imagine what traveling can feel like.

A Theme Per Month

I thought about this for a while. Of course, when I travel, and experience things as they come, all the events and moments seem random, and, at best, coincidental. But then I remember a particularly interesting 50-yo I met in Shiraz. He was clearly some big time travel writer, possibly for National Geographic, who knows, and in the middle of our conversation I asked him for his expertise: Is it better to write as you experience it, or after some reflection? 

I always write once I’m back home”, he answered.

The power of narrating an experience after it took place, is that it creates an opportunity for the mind to wander and creatively fill in the gaps that would otherwise be dulled by reality. Imagination is a powerful thing, which is why it is so intrinsic to memory, and to our future. 

By choosing a general theme each month, I guess I make a statement about the temporality of things. I say: it doesn’t matter if I visited this place yesterday, or heard this story 5 years ago. A story survives, and, in fact, disrupts any conventional chronologies.

At the same time, it allows new connections to forge, previously unseen relationships between people, events, places, as opposed to rushing to produce a piece that, at times, alienates and others people. Reflection is important, essential, after migration experiences. It gives us time to reconsider, confront and reposition our biases. Most of all, it rings true to the purpose of re-imagining and rethinking traditional —colonial— modes of travelling.

Woman, Brazzavile – Congo.